The Linux Advocate is dedicated to the honest and open discussion Linux and Open Source software and projects. You probably won't like what I have to say, but hey, I'll probably be right.


Tuesday, August 29, 2006

KDE vs. GNOME : Why are we STILL fighting?

As a preface to this article, please note that I will only be covering KDE and GNOME. I know a lot of you out there have your preferred desktop other than those two, but for the sake of simplicity that is all I will cover today. Also keep in mind that this article is solely for the purpose of creating helpful and insightful discussion. Not as flame-bait. Keep it civil.

We all know that the so called "war" between KDE and GNOME has been raging now for a long time. Unfortunately, this competition seems to have fractured the Linux community into two (and more) warring camps, neither able to give an inch between them. People seem to either LOVE GNOME, or LOVE KDE. I have very rarely seen a middle ground. The question I pose today is the following: Is the competition between KDE and GNOME helping or hurting Linux in the long run; and if the latter; would the community be bettered if the two behemoth projects were to come together and merge into one giant linux-standard desktop?

I'm sure a lot of the real Linux hardcores who read that sentence just passed out from screaming too loud. Keep your flames to yourself until I'm done, and it'll all be okay.

I'm going to start off by admitting my preference. I'm a GNOME guy. I started off using KDE originally, but I have come to truly like and respect GNOME. I'm sure it has to do with my love of simplicity and ease of use. But let me get it out of the way by saying that the fact that I prefer GNOME, does NOT in any way mean that I think KDE is terrible, or that GNOME is the end-all be-all of desktops. I honestly believe that the real correct answer is somewhere in the middle ground, where as of late, no one seems to want to tread.

As Linux is growing in popularity with small governments, schools, and the general public, we have to ask ourselves if offering TWO major desktops with every release is really the sane thing to do. Realize for a moment that the average to below average computer user is barely even aware of what WINDOWS is. Giving out tech support to people over the years and asking them what version of Windows is on their machine, only to get back the answer "Dell", has told me that. If those users, or even a fairly advanced Windows user, who is unfamiliar with Linux, are asked to choose between two fairly esoteric, non-descriptive names for thier desktop, they are certainly not going to know what to choose, without doing some internet research first. ( Which we know many people are too lazy to do. ) I mean could you imagine a Linux-based computer world in Linux's current state? Imagine tech support for a moment.

Caller - "Hi, my computer isn't working"
Tech Support - "Ok what distribution, desktop, and kernel version are you running?"
Caller - "Dell?"


The major problem with public adoption of Linux in general, is the feeling among most people who have even heard of Linux is that it is "too complicated" or "for those computer geeks" which, for a very long time was absolutely true. The recent push from distros like Ubuntu, OpenSuse, Linspire, Xandros and others to provide a comprehensive Linux desktop that "just works" is incredibly heartening to me. It proves to me that Linux has matured to a point where we are very quickly nearing our "coming out" party. The use of software like Mozilla Firefox and OpenOffice are also starting to whet people's appetites for quality open source software. These programs are acting like a gateway into the larger open source community for a lot of people (including myself). If Linux is to succeed we have to take advantage of the fact that people are starting to pay attention to what the community is doing.

Unfortunately, someone looking in on the OS community from the outside, does NOT see a pretty picture. We look like a bunch of squabbling teenagers who can't decide on a single thing. We have tons of different desktop environments, tons of word processors, tons of web browsers, hell we can't even seem to decide on a standard way to program all this stuff! To most businesses, governments and average people, this is not the right way to develop a quality product. Now, being INSIDE the OS community, this all makes sense. It has worked all along! We are all building off of each others work to create the new and better. Why fix what isnt broken? However, it would be nice if we could at least decide on a single standard desktop environment for all of the major distributions to use. Many will say this is very un-open source of me to say, and I suppose it's true. Though imagine how much simpler software development would be if we only had to have one desktop / major software toolkit installed by default in all of the major distros for everything to "just work". Having a singular desktop standard does not in any way mean that people can't go off and create other desktops, as I'm sure people would. It would just mean that we would all have something to rally around, instead of bickering all of the time. It would also give all of the Linux flavors a similar look and feel. Linux would always at least LOOK like Linux. Nowadays, some distros look like Windows, some look totally different, and the average computer user wouldn't be able to identify Linux if they tripped over it. The ability for the average person to look at a laptop in Starbucks and say "Oh is that the new Linux, wow!" Would be HUGELY beneficial for public adoption.

This is not to say that it would be an easy transition. A lot of hard work would have to be scrapped, or re-written, and it would be a very hard time for a lot of Linux coders. But in the long run I think it would seriously help the public viability of Linux and open source. Of course you hardcores out there wouldn't be forced to use what you would consider to be this "monstrocity." I'm sure that both KDE and GNOME would continue off on thier own forks, and you would be able to switch back and forth at will.

My point is this. the competing development of KDE and GNOME has sparked some wildfire-like advancements in Linux over the past few years. This is a great thing for the community and for anyone who takes advantage of open source software. However the time is coming soon where Linux will have the chance to seriously gain some spotlight in the world, and I think it is our job as open source software users and developers to make sure that when that time comes, we put aside our petty squabbles and finally start to work together to make sure that the product everyone has been working so hard on for so long is as polished and professional as humanly possible. If that means giving up either KDE or GNOME , or both to make sure we put our best foot forward, I think that is not a terrible price to pay.


So let's just assume GNOME and KDE were merged into a single Linux-standard desktop that was installed by default on all of the large distros. Ignoring most of the technical details that would make this extremely difficult to pull off, let's just assume it was possible and completed:

I'd like you readers to comment and let me know what you think on the following questions:

What pieces of KDE and GNOME would you keep in this new standard desktop?

What would you be rid of?

Do you think having a standard is a good idea or a bad one? Why?

Do you think that Linux as a project has moved past the point of just being a hobbyist venture? If and when do you think we will finally reach "the year of the Linux desktop"

Discuss, argue, and discuss some more. Keep it polite though people, flaming is not welcome here.


Blogger nikhil said...

I agree that some people are really stupid, but i don't think that we should be the ones to bow down just because someone else made them stupid. This is the century of the computer and if these users do not want to know about something which will probably be in every area of their in life in the next few years then they are to blame.
Disappointing a lot of people already using something they like for stupid people is not my idea of promoting opensource

6:40 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Linux is new to me.

I have asked myself this question many times after been frustrated GDM. Then one day, I saw that same question from someone but this time about KDE.

After using Linux for slighty below 2 years, have come to convince myself that what you've said will NEVER happens.

This is Linux, too much choice, pride, way of life is involved.

Welcome to the brave new world :-)

7:54 AM

Anonymous klearview said...

I have really had it with all this "Let's make it easier for Windows users nonsense". Please stop it!

Let's not make it easier for Windows users - let's produce software that is more powerful and more secure than Windows can offer and the users will follow. Linux got to where it is today precisely for this reason - by leading, not following.

And the competition that exists between KDE and Gnome is good (despite all the flame wars) just as the competition between distros is - it gives you choice to fit your exact needs, it pushes respective developers to produce a product that is better than the other party's.

I can already hear you say "But all this choice and strange names make it so hard for the newbies!" - well, if someone's reason for not switching is an abundance of choice, I am rather happy he's not switching.

So let's compete and produce a better OS and the smart users will follow.

9:09 AM

Blogger flai said...

i think that's good to have all the options available because we all have different tastes, ways of thinking etc...

I think that what would be nice in the "desktop war", would be a standardisation of the concepts used and the names to the concepts used in all those GUI's, menus, icons (maybe?) and software tools. Maybe in this way even if someone is not used to work with kde/gnome, he could easily identify the same "vocabulary" across distros/apps/desktop suites.

9:30 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I use both KDE and Gnome. Gnome at work on my desktop and KDE at home on my laptop. I like the simplicity that Gnome offers for daily work tasks, and the way that Novell's Suse Linux Enterprise Desktop (SLED) 10 has polished Gnome is very nice. However I like the freedom KDE offers for the hobby work and when I want to have fun.

I too would like to see more convergence on the middle ground, though honestly I think that Gnome has a ways to go to catch up with KDE on the sheer number of apps.

Often, when given the Gnome version of an app and a KDE version, I run the KDE version, even on Gnome. Tools like Kdiff3, Amarok, Kontact, Kate etc. are leaps ahead of their Gnome counterparts. Perhaps that is because KDE is designed to be more than just a desktop, it is a complete software solution.

11:22 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Regarding the first comment to this article: Those "stupid" people you're talking about - they're the ones that make up the "Linux adoption" population. You see, the smart folks are already using Linux, but it's still not considered to be "adopted" yet. We need those "stupid" people you're talking about, so it would be better not to bad-mouth them too much. Working with them would be the better approach (IMHO).

12:16 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with klearview!

I used GNOME for more than 1 year, but than I discovered the power of KDE... which is extremely advanced that is GNOME today. I guess I don't even had to pronounce words like transparency and QT ... right? We all know that GTK is slow...

And the part that how would be to have one desktop, to unite KDE and GNOME... that will NEVER happend. And there are so many Window Managers and so many browsers and so many IMs because there are so many people, any everyone has a different perspective on things, one likes it like that... other one likes it the other way. This means freedom and the power of choice.

And I think Windows users have more software from the same category, like browsers or e-mail clients, the only difference is that most of them are NOT free. I even so a software that reboots your computer (and not at a specific time)... how stupid can that be?

12:31 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The problem is that without all the new linux adopters we will never get as good drivers as Windows from the hardware producers. Do i need to mention winmodems and bluetooth devices?

2:43 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

This may sound harsh...and I'm in no way a fanboy....but I don't really know of anything I like in Gnome. The file manager is just bad,,,I hate GTK...I don't especially like it's panel or slow menu. I don't use a single GTK program, because I find that almost every KDE program is more advanced. I guess, I just don't like all...

5:00 PM

Blogger CanadianWriterMan said...

I am also a Linux newbee... just over a year now. I've tried Xandros, Linspire, Freespire, Symphony, SUSE, VectorLinux, Kubuntu and have finally settled on Ubuntu. I agree that talk of the superior KDS apps has lured me into going back to a KDE-based distro every once in a while.

Let me say two things. First, my desktop has a spiritual and emotion affect on me. Every time I use KDE, it gives me the jitters. I always come back to GNOME and it instantly makes me feel calm, relaxed and at home.

The second thing is that KDE apps like Amarok may be better, but I don't see the advantage. I want simplicity. As long as I can do what I need to do, I don't want anything else cluttering up my brain and eyes. KDE, to me, seems too cluttered and busy.

Finally, all this goes to prove it that, for me, GNOME is a perfect fir. For many others it is not. So, let's say we move to a middle ground. Possibly I will be unhappy with the KDEish elements in the middle ground and the KDE fans will be unhappy with the GNOME elements. Let's see... that would make everyone unhappy, wouldn't it? Linux is all about choice. Take the choice away and you lose some people. Let's not prostitute ourselves to win the OS race. Just look at the vast improvements in Linux this year, the rapid growth in popularity of the major distros, and the advances in usability. All of that was accomplished while still having two major desktop interfaces.

10:49 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Of course, the premise is false. The vast majority of Gnome and KDE users quietly and happily go on using their preferred desktop while wishing the best for their KDE or Gnome-using brethren. The problem is that the flamethrowers get the attention.

As for the proposed solution -- "to come togther and merge into one giant linux-standard desktop" -- what's the point of blurting out such fantasies? It's not going to happen. As such, whether it should or should not is irrelevant.

What's bothering me is a pattern that has emerged, that the individuals pushing the "one Linux desktop to rule them all" paradigm nearly always turn out to be Gnome advocates.

I've never been one to trouble myself with the technical nits of Gnome vs. KDE -- I've used both and I like KDE better, at least for now, and it's just that simple. If there's anything that has begun turning me off Gnome, it is exactly this dichotomy that has developed, wherein Gnome is becoming associated with the yearning for a "single dominant desktop", while KDE seems to increasingly be associated with freedom of choice. Going further, I constantly see other aspects of this dichotomy in the manner in which the two are developed, the approach and manner of the individuals involved, etc. If you ask me, this is not a healthy development for Gnome.

How about this idea for you one desktop must rule advocates: instead of trying to establish yourselves (or even ourselves, to include myself in that group) as the in-the-know benevolant priesthood delivering a single, highly quality desktop computing experience to masses too ignorant or lazy to make informed choices, how about just letting the market decide? As often as possible, put both Gnome and KDE in front of users, and see which they prefer? However, I get the weird sense that this is not a solution that appeals to the one desktop crowd, which leads me to wonder whether there is an underlying fear that more users would choose KDE over Gnome!

To put it another way, it seems like Gnome advocates are increasingly tilting towards some kind of "bureaucratic" solution, in the form of a great merging of the desktop, rather than pursuing an expanded user base by focusing on the appeal of the product itself. Not a good sign.

Peter Yellman

11:05 PM

Anonymous linux-user said...

I think that having choice is good. Having KDe, GNOME, XFCE, etc is good and help people find their individuality. But also this affects when you want to program, because many thing are specific to the desktop environment that your are using. Why not "just" have a common API ? This way I can write an application worrying only with the logic and functionality of the program and let the "upper" desktop environment manage presentation.
I think that many problems in Linux can be resolved or mitigated by having a common API (at some level) or a common standard and using it.

This is just my opinion.

12:08 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I generally use KDE, simply because I prefer that desktop (I'm writing this on Kubuntu 6.06 with Konqueror). However, there is one GNOME app without which I could not be "Windows Free Since 2003." One of those is Evolution because of its MS Exchange connector, as we're cursed with MS Exchange Server at work.

Is GNOME my preference? No, it happens not to be. Would I use it if it were put in front of me? Of course I would!

12:23 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Having two opposed philosophies can also be considered an advantage.

Unifying KDE and GNOME is like trying unifying people. Depending on our upbringing, culture and other influences we value different ideas. It would become a boring world if that would happen.
Unless you brainwash everyone there will always be people that favor features over simplicity and vice versa.

This is a good thing.
Diversity is beneficial for evolution of culture because it gives access to more ideas and provides balance. Competition has also proven to be a great innovator.

All this said. I'm not sure if we're still fighting. I've got the feeling that most of the KDE and GROME crowds is accepting that having choice is a good thing.

12:31 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Most linux users like the phrase "it just works", but from the outside it doesn't. Sure if you play match games you will eventually find the installer for your version whatever, but there is no common user standard. Think of this. Windows loads windows programs. windows runs windows programs. Linux does not run linux programs unless you find the "right" version of the installer for your version and type. The first blush for a new user is that if there are so many conditions to meet just to load and run, then what else is in store in trying to run the applications once one finally arrives.

Linux persons don't get it. There are plenty of programs that customize how windows works and looks. Stardock does a killer job. The point here is that it is available but relatively little used. It isn't about pretty icons or trick windows. This is proven by the majority of users that use the default loads with little changes. What delineates Windows is that no matter what program you use or version of the system is being used, if you load a windows program, you get an icon where you expect it and can run the program.

Not so with linux. Get red hat amd you have one kind of installer, get suse and you have another and never the twain shall meet.

It isn't about the window dressing, these are all x86 applications. Linux may have some comon origins, but to the "typical" users, they all act like they are mutually exclusive. Quite frankly, they might as well be, as they are. The standards don't exist where they are needed. New users don't have a clue as to which distro to start with, and if they pick wrong they get to reformat and start all over. You talk about choice? There is none. Try changing distros, and see what else you have to change. At least with windows, you can load XP over 2000 and save most everything, including the programs. That is how the other side of the world views it.

My view? Make a comon kernal, overlay what ever desktop you like, make all the programs load the same way and work, and if someone wants a "different" distro, then make them able to be installed over the top of the existing one with all the apps and bells and whistles intact.

Until then, Linus is a chaos of discrete operating systems with a comon name.

1:12 AM

Anonymous John said...

Just X. XFCE that is. Don't need Gnome feet or KDE gears.

Also, regarding the commments about n00bs, wannabes and "other people", none of you were born with a Pentium in your brain so do us a favor and grow up a little. As someone that went from C64's to mainframes, I can really appreciate a learning curve. If you can help make someone elses life easier then please do so. Remember that not everyone has the time you seem to have to learn every little facet of computer useage and one of those people you're talking about might just be the doctor that delivers your child someday.

2:09 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fighting? Where is the fighting? I see two groups of people trying to make really good desktops, and working together where it makes sense to have a common standard.

And while a common standard is great for some things, different people want different things from their desktop, so a "one desktop to rule them all" just isn't going to work.

3:20 AM

Anonymous Timothy Goddard said...

The only thing I could possibly at you about is that you fail to realise (or maybe just ignore) the fact that diversity is what makes the Linux world different from the Windows one. It's all about choice and the freedom to make choices.

Some people prefer KDE, others prefer GNOME, and some are FVWM or Blackbox users. The point is that different people look for different things. I like the configurability of KDE. Others like the clean, accessible interfaces presented by GNOME.

Unlike Microsoft Windows, the various Linux distributions do not treat people as a monoculture. Different people have different tastes and will make different choices as a result. This is all part of the package.

The reality is that KDE and GNOME developers aren't fighting. Each group produces a product they want to use. Each has its own merits. This diversity is a good thing - it propels innovation.

If users want easy support, the answer is simple. Buy a commercial distro from a vendor who sells one particular solution. They will support what they provide.

3:29 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

You have some valid points, but you can't expect Linux to be like commercial software developed by one entity. The simple nature of Linux and the open source movement breeds this type of competative choices. "Survival of the fittest" competition is healthy . . .

Try and go shopping for a new coffee machine or a mobile telephone (or any consumer product these days) - the selection is overwhelming to the "avererage" consumer - Price alone does not dictate quality, and trying to figure out what features you need on your new coffee machine when there are over 40 different models and manufacturers to choose from is intimidating!

Bottom line is, choice is good and healthy - and both platforms cater to different types of users. That's why Apple has been successful with their OSX despite M$ dominance.

I also supect when the KDE 4 series starts to come out - this issue will become less of an issue . . . KDE is quite powerful, and therefore more involved than GNOME from a users perspective.

Either way, the Linux desktop in gerneral will continue to march forward and make progress.

3:51 AM

Anonymous Hans Bezemer said...

The thing I don't like of both Windows and GNOME is that I have to prove what I'm doing. Hey, if somebody knows what he's doing here it's me!

GNOME also prevents me to tweak the thing in an easy way, the "don't give 'em a choice" paradigm (which is false, I believe).

Finally, the GTK is horrible compared to the clear KDE API.

I too feel the need that they should come closer. But in a cooperative way. Like config files, icons, themes, menus, etc. And most certainly: a common API.

If we can achieve that, we might compile Konquerer into Gonquerer and GIMP into KIMP. We will be able to share a lot more, without bothering the user. We will still be different, but in a good way. Choice is not bad, you know..

4:05 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Some remarks. It's completly false there is a battle between KDE and GNOME. Actually it was a battle time ago, but the battle finished and GNOME won. Period.

Firefox uses GNOME, RedHat uses GNOME, Novell uses GNOME, Ubuntu uses GNOME, Nokia (Maemo) uses GNOME, IBM (Eclipse) use GNOME, new Java Swing uses GNOME, OpenOffice uses (partially) GNOME, Adobe opted also for GNOME, the 100$ computer per children uses GNOME and the list continues. So, plain and simple GNOME won.

Someone KDEer still doesn't want to admit the deffeat, as well as some irakian doesn't want to admit their defeat, but that's their problem, not our.

Outside the "Geeks's world (those reading this blog) nobody out there use KDE, because it doesn't offer any advantage but it offer many dissadvantages (C++ centric, and Qt licences being the most prominent ones.)

4:13 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think the competition beetwen Gnome and KDE is a good thing. Competition often stimulate innovation.

It also has provided a framework that is more neutral through I'm not sure that would have happened otherwise.

Neutral frameworks is the way to go since then someone might build a new Desktop using pre-existing framework and it's compatible.

4:19 AM

Blogger mamato said...

I think to have more than one dekstop is an advantage for linux, I mean, that's one of the reason we can install linux distribution in almost computer with different specifications. Personally I install all the desktop, and try to learn them. IMHO, this fighting is good, where each dekstop environment try their best to make the dekstop being more user-friendly. At the end, the users are the ones who really get the advantage from this good fighting

4:39 AM

Anonymous Patryk Zawadzki said...

Merging desktops is a major no-no for me. However, the biggest disadvantage of being in cold war state (I mean GNOME and KDE, being a GNOME guy myself) is the inability to decide the common standards to use. I don't mean pretty lowlevel bits that takes care of.

I mean having the same mileage when attempting to perform common tasks that involve hardware. For example GStreamer is a great multimedia framework, but it's flamed at because of GNOME using it. And we end up having O(n) different frameworks to do the same thing. All of them do some things better and all of them, unfortunately, have some bugs or disadvantages.

I'd like the underlying technology to be merged, not the desktops. As now if you hear three random folks talking about Linux, each using a different piece of software and therefore a different framework, you hear something like: "my camera is not working, my iPod is not working, my XXX works every other reboot." Now it makes you see "Linux" (I mean Linux -based distros) as the common denominator of all frameworks instead of the union.

Desktops should stay separate, OSS is all about diversity when it comes to apps.

5:37 AM

Blogger seawolf said...

I used GNOME in Red Hat 7.2, 8 and Fedora 2 (I think) but since then I've always used KDE. As I installed FC4 and 5, I thought that I should switch over as I have found the GNOME is over-simple, slow and seems... fat. You know, the GTK buttons are bigger and use a lot of whitespace, things like that. I go for functionality as well as ease-of-use (rather than straight simplicity) which I have found in KDE and QT.

It's an arse that Fedora uses GNOME as it's distro desktop but I live with it. I think the reason for this is GNOME's simplicity is easy to get hold of for new users. Personally, I could never get back to GNOME. I even switch to KDE for a session when doing things on my girlfriend's Ubuntu laptop!

It's not too much hassle to have both, either. That said, I wish I could have everything FC like Inkscape and GIMP in QT!

8:56 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

> Firefox uses GNOME, RedHat uses GNOME,

Firefox only uses portions of Gtk. Redhat: Oh yeah, surprise! Without Redhat basically having started Gnome why should they ever advertize something different.

> Novell uses GNOME,

But SUSE-Development (I mean the real one in Nuremberg) still favours KDE and KDE still gets heavily advertised by them in Europe.
Just another example about corporate weight from american Megacorporations trying play their usual game.

> Ubuntu uses GNOME,

And Kubuntu uses KDE. Without even having been as much advertised as Ubuntu the Kubuntu share is about 30%-45% of the whole Ubuntu community - and rising.

> Nokia (Maemo) uses Gnome

They don't use Gnome but source code from it. Nokia is also using KHTML from KDE as their current browser for S60. And in opposite to Nokia 770 the telephones that ship with it are no geek toys but are shipped to millions of people.
The same is true for all those phones that are using Qtopia. It's nice to see that Gtk technology has catched up slightly there but Qtopia has been there much earlier already and is in the lead (Have a look at other Qtopia stuff like Sony's Milo and Motorola's phones).

> new Java Swing uses GNOME,

Well it uses Gtk afaik.

> OpenOffice uses (partially)

OpenOffice still uses their own toolkit. And that won't change within the next years to come. That's why they created technologies that make it possible to use Gtk as well as Qt. Since it has become clear that Gnome's future will mostly be centered around .NET it has become a lot more silent around Sun by the way.

> Adobe opted also for GNOME,

They opted for Gtk for some project and for Qt for others (Adobe Photoshop Album).

> the 100$ computer per children
> uses GNOME

You don't know what you are talking about: First and foremost: Given that the performance and resources are really low (AMD 400 MHz, low flash memory, etc) it won't run any classic desktop system. Then the reference plattform ist mostly created by Redhat, so it wouldn't even be a surprise if.

No, Gnome didn't win anything.

9:54 AM

Anonymous Peter said...

If Linux is to have a future on the desktop it must achieve a large critical mass of adoptors. Otherwise it will not get the apps and will slowly fade away. Don't forget OS2. I think a single desktop is the only way. KDE and GNOME should merge and be incorporated with the kernal development. We should learn from what we do well. A single environment would mean faster progress too. One of MICROSOFTS greatest strenghts is that it can create a single desktop with minor changes for home, office, etc. The dinosaurs went extinct because they could not adapt and compete. I hope the same fate does not happen to Linux.

10:11 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why should we make the choice for people? Remember RedHat's Bluecurve, that was to unite GNOME and KDE in terms of visuals? It failed mostly, people preferring to use the default style for whatever desktop they were using.

First of all we need to ask ourselves if we really want the huge market share, with all the positives and surely negatives to go with it... do we want even more crowding on the fora with thousands of people asking the same question over and over again because they can't be bothered to search for it by themselves?

One of the reasons the community has grown so far is that it attracts likeminded people, because the entry level is so high. Changing the balance might kill the community, which to me is more important than being able to boast about market share and such.

11:37 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm an ex-Windows user who recently changed to Linux at home (a KDE-based desktop). When I switched I'd never heard of Gnome or KDE; I have KDE because it was essentially placed in front of me. Since then, I've done some looking on the Web to try to learn about Gnome, KDE, XFCE, etc. I couldn't find a coherent, simple (for about-to-be-ex-Windows users!) listing of each desktop's qualities. Those with enough time can try each desktop out; I, like most people whose computers aren't their hobbies or livelihoods, don't have this much time (though why am I on this forum? -- Just a few free minutes at work). Is there such a Consumer Reports-like comparison that I've missed? If it concentrated on objective features of each desktop rather than subjective impressions, so much the better.

1:38 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

> Firefox only uses portions of Gtk.

~$ ldd /usr/lib/mozilla-firefox/firefox-bin => /usr/lib/ (0xb7bbe000) => /usr/lib/ (0xb7b41000) => /usr/lib/ (0xb7b26000) => /usr/lib/ (0xb7b10000) => /usr/lib/ (0xb7b0a000) => /usr/lib/ (0xb7a7e000) => /usr/lib/ (0xb7a37000) => /usr/lib/ (0xb7938000) => /usr/lib/ (0xb7935000) => /usr/lib/ (0xb78b4000) => /usr/lib/ (0xb7890000) => /usr/lib/ (0xb75b1000)

Which means Firefox use GNOME. Sorry mate, if you don't like it you don't like it.

> But SUSE-Development (I mean the real one in Nuremberg) still favours KDE and KDE still gets heavily advertised by them in Europe.

Errr, sorry. Novell is a World Wide Company (6000 millions inhabitans) whose main bussiness is USA and ASIA. Germany is just a country (70 millions inhabitans). Still if you live in Germany and go to an IT store to buy Novell/Suse, what do you get? A GNOME desktop. Period. Anything else are C++ geeks paranoias. (Iraki "resistence").

> Just another example about corporate weight from american Megacorporations trying play their usual game.

Like or not american Megacorporations sucess and do their job, while german Suse incompetence made them waste money and time with deprecated C++ bugware until it was rescued by Novell (Note: I'm european). Must I remember that Novell development strategy is all about Mono/Ximian/RedCarpet (GNOME).

> And Kubuntu uses KDE. Without even having been as much advertised as Ubuntu the Kubuntu share is about 30%-45% of the whole Ubuntu community - and rising.

You don't get it. Kubuntu is a "geeks" distro and it owns 30%-45% market share amongst "geeks" that don't worry to download a full DVD.
That's not the whole world, but just a small piece of it.
Ubuntu (GNOME) is what comes preinstalled in many new laptops from Carrefour (the first european store,

> They don't use Gnome but source code from it. Nokia is also using KHTML from KDE as their current browser for S60.

Right now Nokia uses Opera. Meanwhile they are experimenting with a Gtk port of the KHTML engine used by Konqueror as well as with Minimo (the embedded mozilla browser)

> The same is true for all those phones that are using Qtopia. It's nice to see that Gtk technology has catched up slightly there but Qtopia has been there much earlier already and is in the lead (Have a look at other Qtopia stuff like Sony's Milo and Motorola's phones).

Err, sorry, must I remember that those phones use a comercial licence from the embedded Qt platform that have not much in common with the Qt platform used by KDE.

> new Java Swing uses GNOME,
> Well it uses Gtk afaik.

Again get documented. Also notice that Gtk and GNOME are converging platforms. Whenever a GNOME library matures (get API frozeen) it gets incorporated to Gtk, so trying to ignore Gtk and GNOME are the same reality is just nonsense.
In fact, Gtk bugs are reported in the GNOME bugzilla system ( More info here:

> OpenOffice still uses their own toolkit. And that won't change within the next years to come. That's why they created technologies that make it possible to use Gtk as well as Qt. Since it has become clear that Gnome's future will mostly be centered around .NET it has become a lot more silent around Sun by the way.

Errr, you even admit Sun opted for Gtk when choosing its new Swing libraries.

> Adobe opted also for GNOME,

>They opted for Gtk for some project and for Qt for others (Adobe Photoshop Album).
You are right. Gtk/GNOME for Acrobat, Qt for Photoshop Album... No comment.

> You don't know what you are talking about: First and foremost: Given that the performance and resources are really low (AMD 400 MHz, low flash memory, etc) it won't run any classic desktop system. Then the reference plattform ist mostly created by Redhat, so it wouldn't even be a surprise if.

400 MHz, and 128 Mbytes of RAM are much more than just need to run a full featured desktop (Windows 2K does flaweslly). GNOME can run on such hardware(and Maemo, the GNOME variant, run with even half such specs)
unfortunately that's not the case with KDE.
See also

> No, Gnome didn't win anything.

Thanks again to probe my analogy between KDEers and Irak "resistence".

GNOME didn't win anything and the USA didn't win Sadam. Right, OK, I got It ;))

3:28 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I believe it's great that all of you believe in the competition and improvement inherent with competition, but I think you're missing the point. Not everyone is a computer geek and not everyone has the time, or cares to spend the time, researching KDE vs. GNOME, much less distro A vs. distro B. It's pretty silly to take the attitude that only smart people should switch to Linux because if you don't understand the complexities, you're not worthy of Linux. A few recent distros have made a huge impact with welcoming "newbies" and Linux idiots, like myself, with a supportive distro and community. Keep your pre-teen ramble to yourself while the rest of us make the world, and computing, a better place.

4:06 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think many people might be missing the point... the software Universe is the bazaar, not the cathedral... it's less a case of Intelligent Design and more a case of Natural Selection. Does anyone seriously think the GNOME or KDE guys will one day hang up their guns and decide to call it a day.... concede the desktop wars to the others?

NO it's not going to happen... don't worry about it. I like that the different desktops have different feel to them... I'd hate to have a Linux equivalent of the One Microsoft Way...

5:18 PM

Blogger patrick said...

now lets all stop fighting
and i will give u the facts.

KDE is for smart people.
gnome is for stupid people.

now lets stop all this fighting and bickering please.


9:30 PM

Anonymous Jan Gundtofte-Bruun said...

A bit late in the game perhaps, but here it is nonetheless.

My thought is that Gnome should remain Gnome and KDE should remain KDE -- they have different goals and audiences, and people use them as such.

BUT! I wholeheartedly agree that there should be some DE that could be applied as a safe default for all new users -- the ones that come from the Windows audience and don't know, want, or dare anything else.
Such a DE is, as far as I know, nonexistent. Both G and K want to be it, but without wrapping their advanced features it's never going to happen. And, sadly, I don't think anyone will ever create a DE with the sole purpose of being a dumbed-down, safe-default, option. Anyone doing DE's wants it to do everything, and keep evolving.

The bottom line is, DE's aren't likely to want to change. But what is likely, and is already happening, is that they are nearing each other in the back end, what with freedesktop standards and such.

As I see it, this is the real killer feature: if the DE's are crosscompatible in their back-ends, users will be able to basically switch DE's at runtime, with all their settings intact.

4:40 AM

Anonymous Curious said...

How is it that MICROSOFT gets so lucky. They didn't write DOS or the first GUI but managed to take over the pc market. They didn't write the first word processor, spreadsheet, etc. They stole the ideas and drove the companies out of business. Now there is finally a potiential competitor to Windows and they are fracturing the GUI, slowing development, and reducing the number of apps available. If the Linux desktop community can not get their act together then there will never really be a choice for most users of a pc. So sad :(

11:02 AM

Anonymous 4Freedom said...

I agree with curious. If you are for a fractured market then you are helping microsoft retain its monopoly. If your own snobish interests are more important than that of the average user then Microsoft will be doing greatest good for the consumer, not Linux. There will be no freedom from the Microsoft monopoly.

11:12 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Some people say it's up to the user to be clued up about computers, that technology is everywhere so people should learn.

I disagree. You shouldn't have to be a mechanic in order to drive, and you don't have to be a plumber to enjoy a hot shower. Computers should bring the maximum benefit with the minimum complexity.

Even for me, a geek & developer, I want my IT gadgets to work for me, not the other way around. So long as I'm *allowed* to play with the complicated techy stuff when I want, that's just fine.

So, to the subject of a unified desktop standard. Not everyone desires it; those people needn't take part in using or discussing it unless they want to.

For the KDE and GNOME developers, I expect they're happy to work together on many levels, but it's complex work. It's also down to the individual. Nobody should expect them to work night and day trying to create a unified desktop aimed at a wider audience. Unless they want to.

If you ask me, the most likely way to produce a 'unified' desktop would be for somebody to start a KNOME or GDE project (preferably with a better name!), taking copious amounts of code from both KDE and GNOME and making an environment with the best of both worlds.

The project would ideally be started by individuals and then gain corporate backing (it will get better trust and participation that way).

Why hasn't this been done? Because it's very, vary hard. Technically, very hard - you're not just playing with desktops, but with GTK vs QT etc. Socially difficult - how to not annoy the GNOME/KDE developers, and half their users. Plus, you'd need good marketing skills and determination to get the momentum going.

Not surprising it hasn't been done then, but maybe one day...

1:55 PM

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GNOME, the senible choice.

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Anonymous Eric said...

I agree with the others that it's time we stopped this computer stupidity or other countries will quickly surpass the US. People like my younger brother have practically grown up attached to the computer. Less and less peopel will be stupid about computers after the baby boomers die off. Let's raise people to a higher level of computer literacy.

4:34 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The one reason I use Gnome is that the weather applet lets me put in a doppler map from

7:38 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

merging the whole thing is stupid however coding the same things twice is stupid. some core functionality could be shared.

12:01 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

You people don't seem to get it. All this talk about the "stupid people" out there and how it's terrible that people are so obsessed with "just working." Sooner or later, they'll see Linux is better, blah blah blah, don't change a thing, it's worked so far blah blah blah.

You're wrong. It's not Linux's "inherent superiority" that has helped it make significant gains in the past few years--it's the fact that it's becoming more like Windows. Not in that it looks the same or is being dumbed down... but it WORKS. The first time I installed Slackware in 1998 or so, I never even got my sound to work before I scrapped it and went back to Windows. When I installed Red Hat a couple of years later, I couldn't get my modem or NIC to work, and I went back to Windows. When I installed Fedora in 2005, suddenly everything worked. I could get online, play my music, print documents, etc. THAT is what got me interested in Linux again.

The fact is that most people don't care about your open source philosophy or your "freedom of choice" with regard to your window manager or package management or anything else. People want to plug in their digital camera and get a pop-up walking them through extracting the images. They want to plug in their new printer and have the driver install in the background. They want to put in a CD and not have to start up a special program to "mount" it.

And as long as you keep looking down your nose at anyone who doesn't know Perl from Python, you'll continue to be seem as a community of elitist geek-snobs, and everyone else will continue to see things like my fiancee, whose only experience with Linux prior to knowing me was when her less-than-savvy boyfriend put it on her computer and she "couldn't do anything anymore with that damn penguin on there."

Say what you want about Microsoft and how much Windows sucks, but with I've never tried to install a program and been told I lack dependencies, nor have I had to type out incomprehensible commands to get my wireless card working, nor have I encountered hardware that just doesn't work. It's sad that for all the big talk you hear from Linux supporters, it still can't be trusted to work as seamlessly as Windows 95.

I came back to Linux because I believe in Open Source and I'm a geek at heart. But if you're going to win over everyone else, you have to understand that people don't want to--and should absolutely not be expected to--learn about the electromagnetic spectrum to microwave some popcorn.

4:06 PM

Blogger Hugh Jacobs said...

the way i see it is that "the choice" is for people like me, the geeks and hobbiests.

but if you one of these novices (lets stop using 'stupid people'), then would you even be worried about choice? as one novice said, all they care about is that it works. so surely, whether you put them in front of kde or gnome, it doesnt make a difference. the novice can still email, browse, play media on whichever desktop they use.

so the way i see it is, novices dont even need to be aware of all the choices. they will naturally find the other choices when the time is right, when they have a need for it.

i suspect that most people who have problem with choice, actually have a problem in decision making. me being one of them. even though ive been completely gnomeified for the last few years, im tempted to give kde4 a try. i think people like me just really cant decide, so they want to run both. im gonna probably run kde on my desktop and keep gnome on my laptop.

but my point is this, i dont see that choice is a bad thing. its great for people like me when we need something else because what we are using doesnt fit my needs. however, if it does fit my needs, then there is no reason for choice.

so for novices, i say use kde or gnome. and only worry about your other choices when either dont fit your needs.

4:00 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I support there must be a linux desktop standard, but the DEs upon it should be moduled and customized freely.

so, we needn't do two unnecessary same jobs, and the average users can share the benefit of open source community. I thinks it so stupid for the most clever guys to compete and made their effort distracted. We can develop a DE with many many features, but they must base on the consolidated base, i.e, the linux desktop standard base. the standard base should be developed to be a common platform for many applications. freesom sometimes is equal to unefficiency. this is the dispointed part of opensourse communities.

2:44 AM

Blogger Sia.G said...

In all honesty, a terminal does everything... i just load a desktop envronment so that I can have a higher resolution than just using the CLI... then again, my primary machine is a windows machine...=/

8:59 AM

Blogger Car SPEED said...

Yesterday I told my girlfriend, that I considered to buy an iMac, because it looks really cool, it's Unix and it works.
She said, "but you like, the to tweak your linux-box! Aren't you afraid that you'd get bored with an iMac".
She's damn right.
"I like GNU/Linux, because I can chose Gnome, KDE 3.5 ro 4.3 or any other win manager."
For your record I am using KDE4. KDE is cool, because it provides a consistent portfolio of desktop applications. And unless the KDE people screw up again, by deciding to rewrite the whole s***, I'll stick with it.
My prediction is that the open source community will look towards KDE, because of it's ability to be ported to other platforms.

9:09 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think it's fuckin retarded how linux fanboys get ansy about "lowering" standards or "bowing to" windows users.. it's not about making things stupid, it's about making things work better, by default.

In my opinion, it is not the distributions that make the landscape confusing to migrating (windows) users.. it's the desktop environments. As the front running foundations, I have a firm belief that KDE and Gnome would be better off merging their efforts to a single (new) environment.

Now is the time, because things are ripe for big change. If KDE and Gnome could put their eggs in one basket + get in bed with some formerly skiddish software publishers (namely GAME DEVELOPERS) I honestly believe it would send the Windows monopoly in to a spiral.

Linux compatibility for games would basically equal Mac compatibility.. once games go platform agnostic, or at least, begin to full support Linux, other mainstream software will follow. Windows will be left on the merits of the remaining exclusive software they can hold together.. and we all know how that would play out.

I know I am just spinning yarn here, but the pomposity that Linux fanatics are displaying right now is exactly the kind of conservatism shown by command-line worshippers, when graphical frontends began to take over.. and then again when the command line was usurped and only represented with a weak emulator. Windows may be different than Linux, but this will play out the same way for whatever mainstream Linux derivative that happens to emerge from this chaos.

To some (people who feed on marketing) it might seem ludicrous to suggest, but Linux and Mac will be the unspoken alliance that will bring the software monopoly generation to an end. When that fog has cleared, people will realize how similar Linux is to Mac from an operational standpoint, while also understanding that it is more open and it will signal the end of Mac. Then, unless something totally new emerges, which it will, Linux will be the foundation of whatever is leftover. Even if there is a Microsoft operating system in the future, it will probably have a linux or hybrid linux at its core. Something crazy will happen eventually. Gonna ROCK THE WORLD! WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

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